JustStartApplications.com Releases a Top 5 Tip Sheet for the Dos and Don’ts of Graduate Application Strategy

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When it comes to graduate application strategy, there are many simple things applicants can do increase their chances of receiving a letter of acceptance. JustStartApplications.com releases a tip sheet on application dos and don'ts for making the most of the graduate application experience.

It is of the utmost importance that applicants research their targeted schools to make sure they offer the specialties they’d like to study.

It’s go time for graduate school applicants across the globe. As graduate application deadlines approach, JustStartApplications.com releases a tip sheet advising hopefuls on the most common strategy pitfalls the company sees applicants make throughout the process. This release comes on the heels of the company’s previous tip sheet, focusing on common mistakes in the written materials.

1. Applying to programs that are not a good fit.

Whether it’s the lure of prestige or murky career goals left to their own devices applicants often apply to programs that just aren’t a good fit. First and foremost, it is of the utmost importance that applicants research their targeted schools to make sure they offer the specialties they’d like to study. Even Harvard won’t prepare students for a top notch career if they don’t offer the exact discipline in which those students would like to concentrate. It’s also important to pay close attention to the school’s stated requirements, like minimum GRE scores, LSATs, MCATs and so forth. While it does make sense to apply to a few “reach” schools, applicants that are far outside of the school’s stated ranges will be better served by directing their time, energy and money towards schools likely to accept them and possibly offer a scholarship.

2. Lying or concealing information.

This should go without saying, but lying or, well, stretching the truth is just as unacceptable on a graduate school application as it is in a cover letter or resume for that dream job. What’s more, lying about credentials will ultimately catch up with the applicant, whether in the interview process or later down the line, when they cannot perform as promised. Applicants should remember that graduate school is for them; it’s better to find the environment that matches their ability level than to fake their way into a program by which they will be poorly served.

3. Gathering recommendations at the last minute.
Whether it’s asking for graduate recommendations a week before they’re due or simply not following up with recommenders until it’s almost too late, it’s never a smart idea to let graduate recommendations fall by the wayside. Graduate applicants should take as much time as possible -- ideally, beginning their outreach one year to six months before the due date -- to think strategically about the teachers, mentors, or work contacts who will provide them the best recommendation and reach out to them respectfully. This strategy is really key, as an unenthusiastic recommendation from, say, a professor who wouldn’t be able to pick the applicant out from a crowd, will do more harm than good. Applicants should have a strong relationship with their recommenders, provide friendly reminders well before the due date, and thank them properly for a job well done.

4. Making drastic life changes before receiving an acceptance letter.

Perhaps applicants are just waiting to quit that old day job, or maybe they’re ready to leave the life they’ve built behind for a new chance in a sunnier destination. Whatever their reasons for applying to graduate school, applicants shouldn’t make any major life changes until they’ve received official word. They may, for instance, receive no acceptance at all, or scholarship money from a school far down their wish list, or notice from an employer that they will pay for the whole thing. It’s hard to be patient when so much is on the line, but don’t jump the gun until there’s something to be jumped.

5. Not getting materials in on time.

Most graduate programs are hyper-competitive, in some case pitting hundreds of applicants against each other for a mere dozen spots. Applicants will be doing themselves a disservice by sending in application materials late. In some cases, tardy materials won’t be considered, while in others, they will simply put application readers in a foul mood -- not exactly the makings of a great first impression. Research requirements early, set calendar alerts for deadlines, and get those materials in!

With these top 5 tips, applicants will be doing the most they can do to establish their professionalism and worthiness for acceptance. Get the little things right and those big things will click right into place.

Founded in 2009, the mission of JustStartApplications.com is to help students applying to college, graduate, medical and law school tell the kind of authentic, compelling stories that will get them into the programs of their choice. Headquartered in Austin, TX, Just Start Applications operates entirely online through Skype and Google Docs, providing access to expert writers and admissions coaches to anyone in the world at the click of a button.

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Leah Kaminsky
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